Autistic schoolboy, aged 11, becomes one of the youngest inventors in UK after receiving a patent for his sensory-friendly T-shirt

Meet Max Palfrey, an inspirational boy from Derbyshire who has become one of the youngest inventors in the UK
One of the UK's youngest inventor Max Palfrey with his dadOne of the UK's youngest inventor Max Palfrey with his dad
One of the UK's youngest inventor Max Palfrey with his dad

Eleven-year old Max made headlines on ITV’s This Morning when he discussed his clothing brand created to help those living with autism. As part of this brand, he has created a T-shirt that can help people with sensory issues and has now received an approved patent to make the product.

Max has used his own experiences of having additional needs to create a world-first range of clothing aimed at those who experience an extreme sensitivity to certain materials, the seams and labels in clothing. He was only five-years-old when he was first diagnosed as autistic with Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at seven, as well as sensory processing and hypermobility. But this did not deter him as, together with his dad Matt, Max has set up his own business called Comfa clothing. 

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The company’s first range of clothing is a range of affordable t-shirts which are made from super-soft material and have Pop-Its–popular fidget toys often used by neurodivergent people to help them sooth and self-regulate - in the seams. The design for the t-shirt has now been handed a UK patent with a European and Worldwide patent currently pending. By helping those who are neurodivergent like himself, Max has officially become one of the youngest inventors in the country.

Max said: “They help me as I find the Pop-Its are calming and they help to regulate me. I have something that I can fidget with, and I can do it without anyone knowing. My goal is to help more children like me and families.”

Called the Fidget-T, the unique Pop-Its that are sewn into the seams, where the arms naturally fall, can be used as a calming technique without it being obvious to others. The material is 93 percent modal, a semi-synthetic fabric that is made from beech tree pulp, and seven percent elastane, with the seams encased on the inside. The washing and care instructions are also on a sticker that can simply be peeled off to stop the need for irritating labels.

Before starting the business, Max and his family started carrying out market research with other families of neurodivergent children around the world and were overwhelmed with the response they received. They found that, like Max, children needed clothes that were soft and comfortable; polyester material, seams and labels were found to be irritable.

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“The response to our Fidget-T has been overwhelming,” said dad Matt. “The first batch of t-shirts sold out really quickly, so we know that the demand is there. The 16-plus one fits my wife, Lauren, who is a UK size ten so it’s possible for adults to wear them, too.”

The family has received grants to help build the business and there are plans in the future to design other items of clothing such as school uniforms and underwear. Matt added: “There are so many directions we want to take the company in if it is successful. We want to tackle school uniforms - imagine how much having a built in Pop-It would help kids who struggle to focus at school?

“We also want to take the idea into adult clothing; so many adults are like us and discovering they are neurodivergent too, so it would be a great help to have something in the clothing to help them. Work would be so much easier if you had a fidget with you that you couldn't lose."

Most importantly, though, Matt wants the range of clothing designed by Comfa to be affordable.

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He said: “Specialist sensory clothing can be expensive, so we have kept the cost of the Fidget-T as low as we can. Parents wanting to test that the material is right for their child can also get a free sample beforehand. We really hope that Comfa will be a success and that we are able to help so many people. Every other sensory clothing company we've looked at has been created by adults. That's why it's so important to us that Comfa is Max's baby. He's been involved in every step of the way and every decision; it wouldn't exist without him.”

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